Silence the stern reply on sacking
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL and DARREN COYNE SURF Lifesaving NSW had two words to say about why the Far North Coast's chief lifeguard was sacked this week: "No comment."
Peter Baird, who has worked for Surf Lifesaving NSW for 17 years, was fired on Monday without entitlements or pay after criticising local councils in the media.
Surf Lifesaving NSW media manager Brett Moore yesterday said it was the organisation's policy not to comment on staff-related matters.
Asked whether the Tweed or Byron shire councils had lodged a complaint about Mr Baird, Mr Moore said: "You would have to speak to the council."
Tweed Shire Council general manager Mike Rayner and Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham also would not comment.
Mr Baird told the media last week that the Tweed Shire Council should reconsider its decision not to employ lifeguards. His comments came after packs of sharks forced volunteer lifesavers to close a number of beaches.
He has also criticised Byron Shire Council's lack of lifeguards outside the busy Easter and Christmas breaks. In February last year he highlighted the need for more lifeguards on Byron Bay's Main Beach because it was patrolled by just one person who was forced to close the beach for his toilet breaks.
Shortly after his comments and three drowning deaths on Tallow Beach, the Byron Shire Council voted to conduct a $20,000 safety audit of the beaches under its control.
In March last year Mr Baird publicly expressed his disappointment about not being invited to a council meeting about how to combat drowning deaths in the Byron Shire.
At the time he said: "I'm a bit shocked they have made a decision without consulting the authorities of the beaches ? Surf Lifesaving NSW and Surf Lifesaving Australia."
The Northern Star understands Mr Baird had previously been warned against making comments to the media about lifeguard numbers.
Mr Baird is now waiting for legal advice before he comments on his dismissal.
Asked whether it was common practice for Surf Lifesaving NSW to sack employees with up to 17 years' experience for telling the truth, Mr Moore replied: "No Comment."
And when Mr Moore was asked whether any mediation had taken place with Mr Baird before his sacking, Mr Moore replied: "No comment."
When asked if Surf Lifesaving NSW was preparing to defend a legal challenge against the dismissal, Mr Moore replied: "No comment."
Married with three children, Mr Baird was in the process of moving from Ballina to Pottsville.